Rosa centifolia (Rose absolute)
Rosa damascena (Rose essential oil or otto)
Orange to brown viscous oil (Rose absolute)
Pale yellow to olive moderately viscous oil (Rose otto)
Rich, sweet, rosy, spicy, tenacious, radiant (absolute)
Floral-rosy, rich, radiant (otto)
Perhaps no flower is more recognizable and no aroma more evocative than that of the rose. Its rich fragrance has perfumed human history for generations, from ancient Persian gardens, where the rose was probably first cultivated to extravagant Roman banquets whose revelers feasted amongst soft piles of rose petals. The rose is common and unassuming, blooming carefree in a grandmother's rambling, overgrown garden. But the rose can also personify black tie elegance, its velvety blossoms lavish enough to keep company with champagne and caviar. The rose symbolizes innocence, love, passion, sympathy, desire, luxury and the ideal aesthetic.
The healing tradition associated with the rose is no less remarkable than its fragrance and beauty. The 17th-century English physician Culpeper wrote that red roses strengthen the heart. He may have been referring to a physical action, but anyone who has inhaled fresh roses or their essential oil knows the aroma strengthens the heart spiritually and emotionally as well. Culpeper attributed other properties to the rose that foreshadowed its current use in aromatherapy and cosmetics. He recommended extract of rose for its cooling and astringent benefits, useful for headache and tired eyes. He also suggested an ointment of roses . . . to cool and heal pushes, wheals and other red pimples rising on the face . . .
Rose oil is used in creams, lotions and soaps for its mild anti-viral and bactericidal properties, as well as for its fragrance. Rose water, recovered from the distillation of rose oil, is mildly astringent and beneficial for cleansing and refreshing dry, sensitive skin.
Besides being used as a medicine in history, the rose has a long history as a costly perfume. Fresh roses were macerated in hot fat to produce fragrant pomades in ancient India, Greece and Egypt. In Egypt these pomades were shaped into cones and placed on the top of the head. As body heat melted the fat, fragrant, rose-scented oil would trickle down the face and neck.
With the advent of distillation in the 10th century, Persians began extracting rose flower water from fresh roses. Because these early stills were crude and inefficient the amount of essential oil obtained was probably negligible and may have been entirely overlooked. An early reference to rose essential oil is mentioned in a legendary Mogul account of the betrothal of a princess named Nour-Djihan to the Emperor Dhihanguyr. The wedding feast was held in a garden surrounded by a canal filled with rose water. As Nour-Djihan and her lover plied the waters in a small boat she noticed a thin film of rose oil on the surface. It was carefully skimmed off and rose essential oil was born.
The difficulty of extracting rose oil from the plant has always caused it to be a very expensive substance. A rose blossom contains only about 0.02% essential oil. It takes about 60,000 roses to produce just 1 ounce of oil, and ten thousand pounds of rose blossoms to produce 1 pound of oil. The extraction of rose absolute with chemical solvents is more efficient than the steam distillation of the essential oil. Ten pounds of a substance known as concrete can be extracted from 10,000 pounds of roses using this method. The concrete is further refined to produce rose absolute, the yield of which is about 67% from the concrete.
Regardless of its price, the potency and incredible fragrancing power